There is never a good time for bad news, but there it is, right in front of me, plain as a shadow on a sunny day.
She breaks the news the minute she is in the car. I’m trying to get her in her car seat and the buckle hasn’t even clicked when she blurts it out:
“Dad, I think I want to leave home.”
I move back, still leaning over her. I try to get her freckled little face, her blue eyes, in focus. I don’t have my glasses on. The back of the front seat keeps me from moving back far enough, so I have to squint to see just how serious this statement, this bomb, is.
No hint of a smile; if she isn’t serious, she should win an Oscar.
“Ohhh-kay,” I say.
I walk around the car and wave to Mrs. Davis, Vivian’s kindergarten teacher. I drop my chin, looking down at the pavement and smile. She cast the hook and I’m going to run with it. It’s a good opportunity to connect. Lynnie is at preschool for a couple more hours, I’ve made Vivian’s favorite, chicken noodle, for lunch, and this plan to leave home will make for good conversation over soup and crackers.
It started out as an ordinary day. We all woke up at the usual time; no crying, no wrong-side-of-the-bed. They ate their pancakes, had their juice, and were dressed and ready to go to the bus stop without any of my deep-voiced “matching socks, girls” or you need your gym shoes today”–not even the requisite “if we miss the bus…” threat. I don’t need any of those stern words, meant to teach them that a sense of urgency is sometimes necessary, because for once they got ready before they started playing. Actually, I guess it started as an extraordinary day.
Now, on the way home from school, Vivian and I ride in silence. I’m trying to figure out where this “leaving home” thing is coming from, and she, I am sure, is using the silence as a negotiating tool, to bring her opponent to the table first. It is a short drive home, and I decide not to bring it up again. It’s up to Vivian.
As I open the screen door to the house, I get a good whiff of the chicken stock on the stove. I mention that I made chicken-noodle soup for lunch and ask if she would like a bowl.
“Oh, not now, Daddy–I need to pack,” she says.
“It’s hot and yummy, and you’re going to need your strength,” I reply. Besides, you have plenty of time.”
She consents to lunch. Continue reading